The BEST Freaking Lemon Bars on Earth

You think I’m kidding? I’m not. I swore a long time ago that I would only put up my very best recipes on the blog- and this one is absolutely freaking awesome. And easy too. You will never, ever, buy the ready-to-make box of pseudo-lemon bars again. This one is the be all and end all.

The crust is like shortbread- heck, no- it IS shortbread. Buttery, buttery shortbread. Topped with lemony, lemony, tangy lemon curd. EVEN Bean eats these- he calls them HIS lemon square bars. Make them. Now. Today. And then return and report. I want to hear how they made your knees weak…

Bean’s Lemon Square Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of butter (3 sticks) melted completley

Mix flour and powdered sugar together, then pour the butter over the dry ingredients. Mix together gently, until just crumbly. Lightly spray a 9 x 13″ casserole pan (metal with straight sides is best for this) with cooking spray, and then press the crumbs firmly into the pan in an even-ish layer. I like to leave little bumps from my fingers- gives it a rustic texture, but you can do whatever you want. (I also like a thick crust, so if you like it thinner, don’t use all the mix, or make two pans) Bake for 15 minutes at 350.

While that’s baking, make the lemon curd:

  • 6 whole eggs
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup FRESH lemon juice. NO skimping with frozen or the squeezie lemon on this one. Don’t do it.
  • the outer yellow zest from 2 or 3 lemons.

In bowl (I use the same one I made the crust in, just rinsed out) whip the six eggs with a whisk until they are uniform and light. Add the sugar, baking powder and flour, and stir to combine well. With a microplane or small grater, zest only the outer yellow skin from two of your fresh, washed lemons. Probably about 2 Tablespoons. Add tot he egg/sugar mixture. Squeeze the lemons, straining out the pips and  pulp, and add the 1/3 cup of juice.

After 15 minutes, pull the crust from the oven, and immediately pour the curd mixture over the hot crust, scraping the bowl to get all the lemony goodness. Pop it back in the over for 45 minutes, or until set and it doesn’t jiggle in the center.

Let cool COMPLETELY (it will be a mess if you rush it, trust me!) before slicing into neat squares. Dust with powdered sugar, and watch your knees give out as you taste them.

This is one of the foods I miss most from before gluten and my histamines got in a land war.

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It’s Here! In My Hot Little Hands!

My book! Okay, well, it’s not MY book- but ten pages of it are mine! I’ve been reading all afternoon, and wow! it’s sooooo weird to read something published with your name.  I’ve been writing regularly for more than five years- and I like to think I’ve put out some decent writing. Not all of it, by a longshot, but some pieces make me proud. This is just really different.

There is something about holding a book in your hands that’s another world from looking at a screen. Of course you all already know I’m a sentimental sap and love the smell of books anyway. It was always a hidden dream in the back of my closet to actually DO this. And here it is, folded open in my lap.

I can see now why writers always thank their editors. Writing for publishing is like having a child- (hyperbole, I know!) but it’s apt. And you don’t want to cut out your words- this is where an editor is merciful and doesn’t have the emotional attachment to the word-children, and can pare it down, make you sound better, where you own vision is clouded. I’m really grateful, and I can already see where I would re-tool it if I could. Not to say it’s not good- it is. I’m pleased to have my name on it. Tickled pink, actually!

So if you feel like it, are looking for a summer read, click on the book cover in the right sidebar, and order yours today. They’re shipping now. I’m so happy!

13 Fresh Flavors

In the eight+ years I’ve lived in Washington, I have often wondered exactly how one makes sauerkraut (or Sour Krout, if you insist) in THIRTEEN fresh flavors. Try as I might, I can only come up with a few: plain, garlic, maybe fennel? After that, I am utterly stumped. Blue raspberry? Bubblegum? I’ve always been too scared to stop and ask. However, the sweet deal on gardon sockers temps me…

Comicon and Skirting the Subcults

I think this officially moves us from “fans” into FanGeeks. I took the kids to Comicon 2010 today, and Abby went in full Vader regalia. These other Fans actually asked to have their picture made with her- and they weren’t the only one. She got serious hi-fives and props for being the ONLY four-year old and ONLY girl dressed as Lord Vader. People thought it was awesome. Mostly because IT IS!

Then the Tuscan Raider wanted to get in on the Girl Vader action. She was very proud. Someone even kicked down and gave us all Star Wars t-shirts after they took her picture. For FREE! Because my four-year old has a following now. Mo will have to explain what all this means.

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One Liners

  • I have no desire whatsoever to see the new Twilight movie. Ditto MacGrubber.
  • Burger King sells big bags of ice at their drivethru for a buck. Like.
  • Hoping the weather holds so I can have a yard sale on Saturday.
  • It’s storming like mad tonight. I dug out a flashlight, just in case.
  • Wednesday TV is poopy.
  • I just watched all of Firefly on Hulu. Lurves me some Joss.
  • I’ve dropped six sizes in pants. It’s awesome.
  • Did you know when you lose weight, your feet shrink? Also awesome.
  • School starts in a few weeks, and I forgot how much books cost. Holy. Cow.
  • Helped a friend pack her house to move this morning. Payback.
  • The Eternal Laundry cycle has really got me bugged.
  • I miss my mom. And my brothers. And the rest of my family.
  • I can’t think beyond right now. If I do I will panic. So I don’t.
  • Am reading a book by Billy Graham on angels. Interesting. Different.
  • Adam and Jamie are mythbusting the guy on the slide flying into the plastic pool.
  • Mo is moving, and I don’t want to talk about it.
  • My brain feels stuck in the shallows right now, and I can’t say I’m enjoying it.
  • I can’t decide- backpack or messenger bag for college?
  • The corner of my front yard is flooded, and I don’t know why. Sigh.

Distribution Good News

So, um… I’ve been picked up for distribution by Pedersen-Arne for my quilt patterns. They are a national distribution wholesale house for quilt stores. They only optioned for four of the twenty-four available patterns, but they’ve reordered already on the ones they did choose- before they even got the first shipment. I’m kind of tickled about this… it makes me happy. It also gives me hope.

Antique Quilt Restoration

A few weeks ago, a friend contacted me and asked if I ever repaired damaged quilts. I never have, but I know quilts, am a confident sewer, and told her I would look and see what I thought. Me and my big mouth. A few days later, a package arrived on my doorstep with the damaged quilt. It was a beautiful white cotton quilt, with appliques of yellow and purple pansies arranged diagonally. Right smack in the middle was a huge hole. No back, no batting, no front. Just hole. How do you repair where there is no fabric? Where there is nothing to even stitch with or to?

Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something.

That is the hole. The green polka-dot fabric is not the backing- I stuck it behind just so you can see the hole. It’s about eight inches of gaping missing-ness of quilt. Add to that the fact that this a vintage quilt, and the threads and colors were faded and fragile. I had my work cut out for me. Har har har. See what I did there? *snort* Can you tell I haven’t slept much lately? What was I saying…?

So my first job was figuring out how to even give myself something to sew. I figured I should patch the back first, then I would have a way to insert new batt, and then worry about re-piecing the front. Okay. Plan en force. Every single white fabric I have was GLARINGLY white against the mellow patina of the old cotton. Crap. Then I got a brilliant idea- I have a thing for old pillowcases- can’t pass them up at yard sales or thrift stores. I covet and treasure them- and they are almost always white. And old. And have a patina of old cotton. Bingo! I riffled through my linens and found a perfect match.

I patched the back with a simple needle-turned square. There. At least I had something to work on now. Then I traced the Australia shaped hole and cut a piece of batting to perfectly fit and whipped the edges. I repeated the same needle-turn process for mending a new white piece to the front. Now I needed to figure out how to made a new pansy, but make it look old. My goal was to keep as much of the original intact as possible. Which also meant I had to try and match fabrics:

Here you can see the white patch. It’s organic shaped on the front to preserve as much of the original as possible. You can see the yellows are not a perfect match, and the green is a little bright- but this was the very best I could find.

This kind of work has to be entirely done by hand- If someone’s figured out how to restore textiles with a machine, I want to know about it. The original was all hand done, and the restoration had to be as well.

Here I’m adding the details to the pansy with a double-strand stem stitch. I love this stitch, but a thimble is a necessity. The original quilter also left her basting stitches intact for the applique, so I had to add those as well. The I had to hand quilt the white background patch so it would match and pick up the design on the original. One that was done, I handwashed it with cold water, and ran it through the dryer on low. The warmth of the dryer further puckered the new fabric, making it blend in better with the old. Hand quilting helps this process too.

And here it is all done, my repair right smack in the middle:

It’s not perfect- but it’s really good. And it can be used and loved now, and the original is still almost entirely preserved. This was a fun way to try something new and add some skills to my toolbox. And now, you’ll have to excuse me while I go finish a bunch more  projects that have been languishing on my backburners. I have a kajillion loose ends to wrap before school starts next month.

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Rant: Zumba

I’m gonna get flamed for this, and I don’t care. I can’t stand Zumba. I’ve gone. I’ve done it. I’ve taken the classes and I’ve shimmied and wiggled and it can even be fun. The teacher at my gym is a nice woman, and I like her. But here is where it lost me: The jingle scarves.

I’m serious about weight loss. Dead serious. I’ve lost almost 50 pounds since January when I joined the YMCA and began finally taking better care of myself. This is no fluff-piece from someone who doesn’t know how hard it is to lose weight. I do. Boy howdy, do I ever.

So I went to Zumba. While I have come to love weight-training, I abhor the treadmill and am always looking for new ways to get some good cardio in- and Zumba works. But gradually something changed. Women would be talking in the locker room with a glazed look in their eyes about the glories of Zumba. They would ramble on about super-fantastic it is, and if you gave a non-committal shrug, they would renew their proselytizing efforts with great vigor. Fervor, I believe, is the right word.

Then the outfits started showing up. I got to the gym several times each week, and wear my workout pants and a t-shirt. My iPod tucks under my bra strap, and all is hunky dory. But I see more and more women wearing these specific pants- nylon with zippers topped with dangling ribbons of nylon webbing. ZUMBA is embroidered, without fail, across their butts and on the lanyards. Each pair of pants has at least four of the dangling ribbons, presumably to help you shake your groove thing as you Zumba. Each pair of pants will set you back $60-$75. Not my thing, but whatever.

The proselytizing grew more intense. Several times I was approached about buying Zumba pants- evidently my Target $14 workout pants were gauche. I don’t come to the gym to be hip. I come to lose some of my hips. When I was fifteen, I liked things that brought attention to me. Now, in my thirties, I don’t need dangling ribbons to make myself feel cool. And frankly, I think you look dumb with yours. Especially when 30 other women in the gym are wearing the same pants.

But that was still all tolerable. Then came the jingle scarves.

Maybe they have an official name to the Zumba-ites, but to me they look like something I tied around my hips when I followed the Dead back before the dawn of time. It’s a silky scarf, adorned with jingling, shimmying gold or silver-toned metal disks, that is designed to be tied around the hips while you Zumba. Over your Zumba pants, of course. Presumably, this is also to help you with your hip-shaking and belly-dancing. The clatter is annoying- legions of women with special pants, and pretty, expensive hip-accessories is not why I come to the gym. It’s become a fashion statement instead of a workout.

The last straw was this last Saturday. It was an anniversary party at my gym. And the TV crews were on-hand, for a big exhibition of Zumba. The music was so loud I couldn’t even hear the day-care lady, and it was wall-to-wall people, all trying to catch the latest fad, Zumba. The ladies had shown up en force, with their lanyard pants and their hippy scarves, and the clatter was commendable. I pushed my way to the locker room, just trying to get upstairs to get on an eliptical. To my surprise, once upstairs, it was quiet and empty. All the mayhem was down watching the shaking jingle butts. What a relief.

This may be sour grapes. I mean, so what? Who cares if some people get off on their accessories? Yeah, maybe. But it’s hard enough for those of really fighting the good fight and getting healthy. This crap is a fashion craze that will burn out like headbands and legwarmers before them. Zumba is an aerobics class- nothing more. It’s not the second coming. It’s annoying. Now get out of my way while I go do some cardio in my plain old Target pants.

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Recipe: Homemade Buttermilk Syrup

If you never make any other recipe I publish, make this one.

I refuse to give my family any of the high-fructose maple syrup substitutes available at the mass market, and a bottle of real maple sets you back $8-$10- which is too rich for my budget these days. Thankfully, a friend gave me this recipe, which has quickly become a family favorite- and I mean, to the point my kids jump up and down and clap when I make Buttermilk Syrup. It’s real sugar, real butter, and real buttermilk. In our house, my kids’ favorite method of consumption is over cinnamon egg whole wheat french toast.

HOMEMADE BUTTERMILK SYRUP

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh buttermilk

Melt together in a medium saucepot over low until butter is melted, then bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stirring with a wire-whip, add:

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

The pot will froth and foam up when you add the soda- don’t worry- that’s what’s supposed to happen. Continue whipping for a few seconds and the froth with mellow a little bit. Serve immediately over french toast, waffles or pancakes. Be amazed at how much everyone loves it.  You’re welcome!

(p.s. Shhhh, but this is one of those recipes I have to throw the saucepot in the sink and fill it with soapy water, otherwise, I will practically lick the pot clean over the course of breakfast.)

Happy Mother’s Day

I really wish I had a transporter and could just beam down to California today and hang out with my mom. All our differences aside, I sure do love her, and I don’t think I’m ever going to outgrow wanting to lay my head on her shoulder. Happy Mother’s Day, mom. And thanks to my awesome kids for making me a mom. I hope I do a good enough job that you will want to lay your heads on my shoulder when you are grown, too. Mama loves you.